The Bombay High Court on Tuesday allowed the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) to carry out the transfer of late nuclear scientist Dr Homi Bhabha's iconic Malabar Hill bungalow to the Godrej family, which bought it for a whopping Rs 372 crore at an auction in June. While they did not oppose the transfer, the central and state governments informed the court that they were actively considering including the bungalow in the heritage list under the Maharashtra Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act.
A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sonak refused to grant any injunction on the transfer, but allowed the union and the state governments to file their affidavits. The governments' counsels informed that even if the transfer is done and they decided on making it a heritage monument, the bungalow can be acquired then.
The HC was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by two employees of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), seeking to stop the auction of the bungalow, Mehrangir. Employees Prakash Worlikar and Ram Dhuri, members of the National Federation of Atomic Energy Employees (NFAEE), had sought directions for the state or the central government to keep the bungalow intact and set up a nuclear exhibition centre or museum inside it.
In his petition, Worlikar said, "The government has preserved the houses of national leaders like Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi. Similarly, Dr Homi Bhabha was the father of atomic energy and an asset of the nation. His house is great inspiration to employees of BARC and we look forward to it being preserved or converted into a national museum."
The Godrej family informed the court that it does not intend to demolish the house for at least 15 years. Their counsel Aspi Chenoy said, "Nobody has a thought of demolition. It will be used for living by the Godrej family." The bungalow, which has a built-up area of 13,953 sq ft, lies on a plot measuring 17,150 sq ft. It is currently under the custody of the NCPA after the death of Dr Jamshed Bhabha, brother of Dr Homi Bhabha, who had bequeathed the bungalow to the NCPA in his will. The court adjourned the hearing till August.